THOMAS, William (c.1572-1635), of St. Mary's Street, Carmarthen, Carm.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
b. c.1572,1 s. of William Thomas of Carmarthen and Catherine (d. aft. 1605),2 da. of Lewis Higgon of Carmarthen, wid. of John Bryne of Carmarthen.3 educ. L. Inn 1590.4 m. Honour, 2s. d. bet. 5 Feb.-20 June 1635.5 sig. William Thomas.
Recorder, Carmarthen by 1603-at least 1614.13
The identity of this Member cannot be established with certainty due to the lack of an indenture and the fact that his name was common locally, but it is known, from the debates in the Commons in 1614 over the confused election for Carmarthen, that he held office as the borough’s recorder.14 He has frequently been identified as William Thomas of Llanfihangel-Y-Bontfaen and Bettws, Glamorganshire, a Lincoln’s Inn lawyer. However, this man’s interests were centred wholly on Glamorganshire,15 and no meaningful link between him and Carmarthen or any of the surrounding properties or families has been found.16 Another possible candidate is William Thomas of Gray’s Inn, who became town clerk of Carmarthen in 1613 after a battle with Sir John Vaughan* of Golden Grove.17 However, it is unlikely that this man would have achieved the recordership within a year of assuming the clerkship, a position he still occupied in 1617 and 1639.18 It seems much more likely that Thomas was the son of another William Thomas of Carmarthen, an attribution supported by the family history compiled by Bishop William Thomas towards the end of the century. In this the bishop claimed that his grandfather, William Thomas, had been recorder of Carmarthen.19 The recorder claimed descent from Henry FitzHerbert, chamberlain to Henry I, and his family apparently came from Monmouthshire.20
It was probably the 1614 Member who entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1590, and was acknowledged in the registers as hailing from Carmarthenshire. Two years later, Carmarthen’s corporation granted a William Thomas a parcel of land adjoining his ‘mansion house’ on St. Mary’s Street, the address given by Thomas in his will.21 Thomas gained entry to the town’s common council by 1597, and his signature appears with some regularity on the extant corporation orders down to 1606.22 One commentator later acknowledged that Carmarthen was a town bereft of legal expertise, so sometime between 1598 and 1603, Thomas, who had some legal training and had acquired armigerous status, succeeded Richard Grafton as recorder.23
The lack of corporation records makes it difficult to assess Thomas’s activities within the borough between his assumption of the recordership and his election to Parliament. However, while serving as president of the Council in the Marches, William Spencer, earl of Northampton, was said to have described Thomas as ‘the wisest and most prudent person he ever knew member of a corporation’, which suggests that Thomas may have practised in the Marches Court.24 He does not appear to have been sedulous in the execution of his duties as recorder, as a deponent in a lawsuit of 1613 maintained that Thomas ‘came and resorted but seldom unto any court held for the borough’. However, this may simply testify to periods when he was absent at Ludlow.25
Thomas’s election to Parliament in 1614 was resisted by the sheriff, Rees Williams of Edwinsford, who, it was said, ‘would not suffer them [Carmarthen’s electors] to have any burgess at all’.26 His reasoning lay in a strict interpretation of the Henrician statutes which had enfranchised the Welsh boroughs. The 1604 charter granting Carmarthen county status, he declared, had severed the town from the surrounding shire, so that there was no borough in the county called ‘shire town’ as required by law. However, the Parliament was dissolved before the matter was resolved. Thomas was nevertheless named to the committee considering the bill against the export of iron ordnance (added 16 May), possibly because there were claims that the Dutch were sustaining an illicit trade in ordnance from Wales.27 Certainly, the coastal areas of Carmarthenshire included iron and coal works which were well positioned for the production and distribution of such materials.28 He was also added to the committee for the bill for the recovery of small debts, which was recommitted after a debate on 19 May.29 This bill gave borough courts jurisdiction over small debt cases in an effort to stymie their malicious removal to London. As the recorder of a borough situated many miles from the capital, his interest in this measure is clear.
Thomas never served in Parliament again, and his horizons were largely limited to Carmarthen and its environs. He continued to serve on the common council, and witnessed the returns of Henry Vaughan* of Derwydd at the borough elections of 1625, 1626 and 1628.30 His will, composed on 1 Apr. 1631, reveals that, contrary to received knowledge, his eldest son John, a Bristol merchant and father of the future bishop, was still alive. Nevertheless, Thomas constituted his second son, William, as his executor, and mentioned that William’s wife was the daughter of Humphrey Smart, a woman generally mistaken as the MP’s own spouse. In a codicil written in February 1635, Thomas indicated that his wife recently had become ‘weak of memory and unfit to manage an estate’, so the lands and goods he bequeathed her were turned over to his executor, who was to provide for her needs’. The will was proved on 20 June 1635.31 No other family member sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Lloyd Bowen / Simon Healy
- 1. Assuming age 18 at entry to L. Inn.
- 2. Carm. RO, Schedule of King Deeds (now withdrawn), nos. 10-11.
- 3. Harl. 2300, ff. 6r-v; NLW, Llanstephan 101, p. 31; Carm. RO, Golden Grove Bks.; G.T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, 263; PROB 11/168, ff. 188-9. The peds. are unclear about Thomas’s place in the fam. genealogy, mistaking him for his 2nd son, William. The information given here is also somewhat conjectural but is clarified by Thomas’s will.
- 4. LI Admiss.
- 5. PROB 11/168, ff. 188-9.
- 6. Carm. RO, Mus. 156A; PROB 11/168, f. 188.
- 7. Hatfield House, (BL, microfilm 485) ms 93/88; Carm. RO, Mus. 611; E179/220/120; C219/39/267, 270.
- 8. E179/224/596.
- 9. C212/22/21, 23.
- 10. E178/5069.
- 11. E179/224/598, f. 5.
- 12. C193/12/2, f. 79v.
- 13. Carm. RO, Mus. 155, f. 56v; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 59.
- 14. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 59.
- 15. W.P. Griffith, Learning, Law and Religion, 190, 348; W. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 395; Llyfr Baglan ed. J.A. Bradney, 270; Clark, 89, 272-3; NLW, 12368E, p. 138.
- 16. STAC 8/6/11; C54/1959/10; 54/2177/9; 54/2194/3; C2/Jas.I/T22/53; PROB 11/137, ff. 362r-v; Exch. Procs. Wales, Jas. I comp. T.I. Jeffreys Jones (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studs. Hist. and Law Ser. xv), 210; Griffith, 345.
- 17. GI Admiss.; PBG Inn, i. 176; STAC 8/20/14, ff. 1-2.
- 18. NLW, ms 12368E, p. 144; Carm. RO, Mus. 155, f. 73.
- 19. T.R. Nash, Collections Hist. Worcs. (1782), ii. app. 158.
- 20. Carm. RO, Golden Grove Bks.
- 21. Carm. RO, Mus. 155, f. 64.
- 22. Carm. RO, Mus. 156A.
- 23. Carm. RO, Mus. 156A; 155, f. 56v; STAC 8/20/14, f. 1.
- 24. Nash, ii. app. 158.
- 25. STAC 8/20/14, f. 1.
- 26. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 59.
- 27. Ibid. 200-1, 207.
- 28. DL44/983, f. 12.
- 29. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 291.
- 30. C219/39/267; 219/40/9; 219/41B/11; Carm. RO, Mus. 155, f. 58.
- 31. PROB 11/168, ff. 188-9.